§ Second Reading debate resumed.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Baroness Hornsby-Smith
My Lords, may I first apologise most sincerely to my noble friend that it was not possible for me to get here in time to hear his opening speech. I assure him that I shall read every word tomorrow morning in Hansard. I had an engagement of six months' standing which I could not break. One has sometimes all too little knowledge in advance of debates in which one wishes to take part. So I do apologise most sincerely that I was not here at the opening of the debate.
May I say, however, that I warmly welcome the new Fisheries Bill. As noble Lords have already said in the debate, I believe that it will make a very great contribution to the future of the fishing industry, which has been going through a desperately hard time. I am not wholly certain why we had to get rid of the White Fish Authority and turn it into the new Sea Fish Industry Authority. Speaking for the harbour board of which I am a member, we have had the closest co-operation and help throughout from the White Fish Authority, and we should like to pay a tribute to the excellent work which they have done in the years that they have acted—certainly in our area—in the South-West.
I should like to speak about the composition of the new authority. There are to be four members who are completely independent of the industry. That leaves eight who could be thorough-going, experienced members of the authority. We most sincerely hope that one of those eight will be somebody with very real knowledge and experience of the particular problems of inshore fishing in the Channel Ports and in the South-West.
Over the past three years I think that I have attended nine or 10 conferences, meetings and all-party delegations at which we have met the representatives of the fishing industry. In all but one case there has been no representative from the South-West. In general, the meetings have been dominated by the deep-sea fishermen. I do not complain about that. They have been better organised, and I say quite frankly that the very local independence and perhaps parochialism of the South-Western ports has been the reason why the area as a whole has not been represented. They are passionately proud of their own individual locations. In the past it has been almost "never the twain shall meet", and therefore their case for a long time has very much gone by default.
One good thing that the French, in their monstrous behaviour about fishing, have brought about is the much greater co-operation between the ports in the South-West. They now recognise that the common enemy is the other side of the water and not next door 136 to them. I am sure that there will be much greater co-operation. Possibly the two people who have done most to create that co-operation have been our two European Members. Indeed, because of their much wider constituency with four or five ports within their area, they have broken down the very local attitude of some of the ports. They have done excellent work. I should like to pay tribute to the work that they have done in pursuing the cause of the South-West fishermen and in supporting my right honourable friend the Minister in his efforts at the various committees of the EEC.
That brings me to this question: Will one of those eight come from the South-West? That is extremely important, not least because many of the ships hard hit up North are coming down to the South-West. We do not complain about that: we find berths for them; but with their larger boats they lessen the catches available to the smaller inshore fishermen, who are exclusively tied to those local areas. I passionately hope that one of those eight interested and experienced members will come from the South-West.
I agree with everything that my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy said about the attitude and the difficulties presented by the "Klondikers". Many members do not realise how numerous they can be. I attended a board meeting a few weeks ago and I asked how many factory ships and "Klondikers" were lying offshore just beyond the 12-mile limit waiting to take catches made by United Kingdom ships in our 12-mile limit. There were 55. Some 45 of them were from Eastern European countries, there were a couple from Portugal, there was one Egyptian and a few others.
That brings me to the question of the levy. We do not complain at all about the new authority being financed by this method, but we think that 1 per cent. of the gross worth of the catch going to it might be a little high, when one compares that with what the local port authorities get. In my own port, we get 2 per cent. of the gross worth of the catch. For that, we have to maintain the quays and docks, pursue and maintain all the safety and health regulations, have a harbour master with his supporting craft and staff, have more staff on the docks and buildings, supply offices, security, lighting, railings, canopies and fish boxes. You name it, my Lords, and we supply it, but for that we get only a 2 per cent. levy! We have to provide the berths and all the services that go with a fishing harbour. We would not mind so much if we had the landing charges, and this brings me back to the "Klondikers".
I am sure it will be readily understood that these small local ports sustain massive losses, due to the growing practice of direct sales to factory ships just outside the 12-mile limit. The other United Kingdom ships, which are quite often from the North and much larger than our local ones, get much greater catches. They then ring a gentleman who sits in an office in Falmouth and say "I have got so many tonnes of this or that fish. Have you a buyer?" Within 10 minutes, that person is told the location of a nearby foreign factory ship waiting three or four miles out, which is prepared to buy. The fish is taken directly there and sold and we lose all the landing charges. For a small South-Western port, this is a very serious loss indeed.
137 I am delighted that the Bill will impose a levy. As I read Clause 4(3)(a)—I hope that I have read it correctly but I am sure that my noble friend can tell me instantly if I have not—in respect of the weight of sea fish or sea fish products landed in the United Kingdom or trans-shipped within British fishery limits at a prescribed rate which, in the case of sea fish, shall not exceed …and so on, the authority will be able to impose a levy on those landings. But I also understand that a local port, which provides the berths and services, will get nothing. I only hope that I am wrong in my reading.
Also, I do not understand whether "within British fishery limits" means the 50-mile limit or the 12-mile limit. If it is the 12-mile limit, it will not catch the Klondikers who lay just outside that limit, and we shall not get what the fishing industry ask for, which is dues from these direct sales. I believe that that is very important, indeed, to the industry and to the authority, in lessening its dues.
My noble friend Lord Mansfield did not wholly agree with me, and told me that my question yesterday was wholly concerned with the Bill today. As he so told me, I am coming back to something which I asked then, but which he did not answer; that is, the question of fuel costs. We are deeply concerned that our fuel costs are greatly higher than those of our competitors abroad. It is one of the reasons why the deep sea fishermen have been less able to take advantage of the quotas allowed us in the Canadian fishing grounds.
First, the industry has been so run down that many of the great trawlers have been laid up or sold in the shrinkage of the industry, so we do not have the same size of fleet as could go out and take advantage of any quotas that we are allowed in those very distant waters. Secondly, it is far less economic for our trawlers to go these very great distances to the Canadian fishing waters, because of the very substantially greater cost of fuel to our fishermen compared with that operating in Germany. I understand that the fuel costs of German fishermen—this is why it is easier for them to go out to the Canadian waters—are about one-third less than ours. This is very important, when one considers all the hazards of deep sea fishing. Although you may go out and get a magnificent catch, you may on the other hand come back with very little.
Finally, I should like to say a word about the controls. There is still very great anxiety, indeed, in the South-West about the adequacy of the proposed controls of the fishing trawlers of all nationalities in relation to conservation. We believe that, in this sphere, Great Britain is stricter. When it undertakes to impose controls, it imposes them. If your Lordships will forgive me for digressing for one minute to give a very sound example of what we are up against, I have been involved in another sphere with regulations imposed by the EEC, agreed by all nations and imposed in this country by the weights and measures inspectors in every town and city in the country. Eight of the nine countries have no local weights and measures or controlling inspectors at all, and if you want to bring a case, or make a complaint, in Italy you must get it up to Rome before any action is taken. Therefore, in this country these controls are far more seriously and scrupulously imposed than they are in any other country in Europe.
138 To get back to the fisheries, we are equally concerned that the controls imposed by the people operating in the fishing industry in Europe, and particularly in France, will be nowhere near as vigilant as those operating from this side. Although we are told that there will be an EEC control and not a national control, the numbers so far suggested are so pitifully small that we think it quite impossible that proper controls will be imposed on both sides of the Channel. Even if they succeed in being imposed in the ports, we are still desperately anxious about the checks on catches sold at sea to iron curtain countries, which will refuse to allow a controlling officer from a small launch to board a boat and check. The ships will probably be so powerful that they will be miles away before any patrol boat can get to them, to check whether they have 1,000 or 10,000 tonnes of fish. We are deeply concerned about this in relation to conservation and maintaining the stocks which we think it so vital to maintain around our shores. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to give me some reassurance on the points which I have raised.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I must apologise to my noble friend the Minister for having arrived too late to hear his opening remarks. However, I shall read them very carefully. I was informed that the Second Reading of the Bill would not begin before 3.15, but I am not blaming anybody for that.
I want to speak chiefly about conservation off the West Coast of Scotland. It is from the West Coast of Scotland that any practical experience of sea fishing which I have comes. I used to have a lobster fishery and I know the coast extremely well. I thoroughly welcome the Bill. It is very wise to amalgamate the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board into the new Sea Fish Industry Authority. It will streamline the operation and I am sure it is the right thing to do.
I should like to say a word or two about conservation and to follow up a point which was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hornsby-Smith. I agree with what she said about quotas. As a means of conservation, quotas would be quite useless. People will cheat. If my experience of the French in my estate shop is anything to go by, the French will be the worst cheats. I understand that there are to be only 40 inspectors throughout the whole of the EEC. That is absurd. You need 400. Forty will be quite hopeless.
May I say something about "Klondikers". I have brought up this subject two or three times in your Lordships' House, and I do not like to repeat myself. However, about seven years ago I had "Klondikers" in my sea loch. They were legal "Klondikers". They were Norwegians and were to be found about a mile off the shore. The Government of the day presumably did a deal with them. These Norwegian "Klondikers" were buying herring fry from Scottish boats, sending it to Norway, canning it and re-exporting it to the United Kingdom. I cannot remember what they were sold as because I never bought a can. As a result of that, for years we have not seen a herring. They completely wiped out the herring stock around those 139 shores. It was the most extraordinary thing for the Government to do.
Since our stocks of fish are very depleted, and as yet we have no permanent fisheries policy within the EEC, surely we are bolting the stable door after the horse has gone. We are acting late in the day. But I suppose it is better late than never. Until we have a common fisheries policy, this Bill, which is a very good Bill, is not very practical. Apparently the Government are being quite tough with the Common Market over the common fisheries policy which we hope to have. However, as my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy has said, this country has over 60 per cent. of all the sea fishing in the area of the EEC. Our coastline is longer than the coastline of the rest of the EEC put together.
There are only three methods of conservation, only one of which is 100 per cent. sound. In Part III of the Bill there are regulations governing the size limits for fish. Clause 19(1) says:… no person shall land in Great Britain any sea fish of any description, being a fish of a smaller size than such size as may be prescribed in relation to sea fish of that description …".In English, that means that you cannot land any fish of a certain species which is under a certain size. But that regulation cannot be carried out in practical terms. If a fisherman runs into a shoal of fish of a certain species, he can easily catch fish which are under size for that species. The fish which he is out to catch may require a smaller mesh than the fish which he has caught by mistake. So you cannot blame the fisherman for that. This is a very difficult problem. Under the law as it stands, the fisherman is supposed to dump the fish back into the sea. That is rather wasteful, because most of them will die. He may break the law by selling the fish to a foreign boat. How one gets round that, I do not know. It is extremely difficult to legislate for this kind of thing.
There is another method of conservation but it is not very satisfactory. The problem is that fish know no boundaries. Even if there were a regulation governing the mesh size for what you were going to catch, you could easily catch the wrong fish. I do not see how you can legislate for that. The only true method of conservation is to have a total ban on fishing in certain areas. A temporary ban could be imposed in an area where no fishing would be allowed. The other method would be to limit by licence the number of fishing boats. That would have to be done when we have a new common fisheries policy throughout the EEC. It sounds rather drastic, but I believe that it is the only way in which one can conserve fish.
I should now like to talk for a moment about Part IV of the Bill, which relates to fish farming. Last summer, I started a fish farm on my estate in Mull. We are hoping to rear 200,000 salmon a year. I am rather confused as to whether fish farming is to come under the control of the Sea Fish Industry Authority or the Ministry of Agriculture. I understand that the Sea Fish Industry Authority are to be responsible for fish farming as regards sea fish, but that they are not to be responsible for salmon or for sea trout, brown trout or rainbow trout. If that is so, it seems a little untidy. I should have thought that one authority ought to be responsible for the whole of sea farming, 140 whether it is the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or the Sea Fish Industry Authority.
Then, there is the question of grants. I understand that fish farmers can only get a grant if the Community gives grants for fish farming in this country. I am not quite sure of that regulation, but I understand that one cannot obtain a grant from the Sea Fish Industry Authority unless it is bound up with a grant from the Community. That does not seem to be very satisfactory. Of course, in Scotland the Highlands and Islands Development Board has given grants to fish farmers, but that is only a small area when compared to the United Kingdom as a whole. I hope that it can be clarified as to who is responsible for sea fish farming, the Sea Fish Industry Authority or the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
I should like to say a few words on the question of disease in fish farming. It is imperative to have fish farms—and certainly salmon fish farms—as close to the sea as possible, where the river is very close to the sea. If, after the fresh water has been through the fish tanks, it is pumped back into the river, one is asking for disease in the lower reaches of the river. It is far safer to pump it out into the sea. I quite understand that that is very difficult to do if there is a fish farm miles from the sea.
I should like to say one thing about the Crown Estate Commissioners, my experience being in Edinburgh. I was amazed one day when driving along the shore of my estate to see a lot of buoys out. They were placed on an oyster bed of mine in which we had put down spawn for years. Of course I took the buoys up. Then the police came and saw me, and they I told me that a French Moroccan, who is now a nationalised Briton, had obtained a lease from the Crown Commissioners. This was extraordinary because the estate has had the shore rights down to spring low tide for generations—in fact in perpetuity; not that I stop anyone from taking mussels or anything of that sort on the shore, but we do rather draw the line at oysters. The Crown Commission Office in Edinburgh does not appear to do its homework. The offices appear to be staffed by extremely young people. I do not know where the senior people are—perhaps they are playing golf! This really requires looking into because I am frightened that if they are going to do this to me, they may start granting big companies rights on the seabed which will cause tremendous chaos. All sorts of things will happen: people will have their nets fouled, other people will be anchoring their boats and dragging up somebody else's cages. So I hope that more care will be taken in the future.
In conclusion, I should like to say that I welcome the Bill especially in regard to the organisation of the Sea Fish Industry Authority, which I consider to be a step in the right direction.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ The Earl of Swinton
My Lords, I must confess an almost total ignorance of deep sea fishing matters, unlike some of my noble friends who have spoken this afternoon. In fact I think my only experience was twenty-four very happy hours that I once spent as—I am looking at my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy—I think the technical term is a "seine netter", out of Wick. So I shall concentrate very much on the fresh- 141 water fish farming aspect of this Bill, and here I must declare an interest as I have recently built and am developing a trout farm.
I give a very warm welcome to this legislation because I think I am right in saying that it is the first piece of legislation to affect fish farming as such, and I would echo what the noble Earl the Minister said when paying tribute to the late Lady Emmet of Amberley. I know that had she been sitting here in her usual corner she would certainly have been speaking this afternoon and she would have shown enormous enthusiasm because there was at last going to be something on the statute book on one of her favourite subjects, fish farming.
I was very pleased to hear the Minister say also that there is a consultation paper and that the Government may take future measures on this if they find it necessary, because I think that the present Bill—although, as I say, I welcome it—is a very humble beginning indeed. After all, there are only four clauses in the Part of the Bill which deals with fish farming and one of those is confined to shellfish in the sea, so I do not think that it has a great bearing on freshwater fish farming.
I became wildly excited when I read through this Bill when I read on page X the title of Clause 33 in Part IV, which is about fish farms, which indicated that the clause dealt with exemption from conservation legislation. As one of those in your Lordships' House who has just spent goodness how many days engaged on the Wildlife and Countryside Bill, I was rather fascinated to think that as a trout farmer I might be exempt from the whole lot. But when I read what it actually stood for, it was something quite different. In fact when I turned to Part I of Schedule 4, on page 41, which is the conservation legislation from which we are to be protected, I found myself with rather a guilty conscience and wondering how on earth I was managing to run a trout farm at the moment without infringing a great many Acts. There seem to be a great many which it is necessary to repeal in order to make fish farming legal.
Clause 31 deals with grants, and again I should like to ask the question that was asked by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard—namely, why is this restricted to EEC grants? Obviously I welcome it, as I am sure fish farmers welcome any grants that are available. Obviously I realise that at the moment the money may not be available for fish farmers but perhaps it will be there one day and I should like to know why that is not being brought into this Bill.
I was also very puzzled by the expression that only fish "for human consumption" was to be eligible for these grants and I wondered how on earth one told the difference between the two. On my trout farm—and I am quite certain that I am not unique in this country—I have trout which go out as regular orders, some for the table and some that go out to stock lakes for fishermen. I suppose that one could say that trout in Pool X are going mostly for table and those in Pool Y are going for fishing. On the other hand, I get people who ring up in the morning and say that they want so many trout either for a restaurant or else for stocking a pool and, until the things go off in the truck, I have no idea whether those fish have been produced for 142 human consumption or not. I wonder how that is to be got around.
I should also like to say something on the clause which deals with grants, Clause 32, which is in regard to the research development and advice. I am sure this is much to be commended. I am very glad we are going to be given some technical help from ADAS and other bodies. But there is an anomaly at present, and I hope my noble friend the Minister will listen sympathetically, because I do not think it is something that will cause a great problem. At the moment the Agricultural Research Council can give grants to universities and in fact it does give them grants for study and research into the development of agriculture. But it is not at the moment allowed to do this for fish farming. There are a number of universities who are doing very valuable work in the field of research into the growth of fish for human consumption; in particular, I would single out Aston university, but there are others.
At the present time the universities—I am sure noble Lords do not need reminding—are under a lot of pressure. I think this is not an enormous piece of legislation. I was hoping that, when my noble friend Lord Mansfield comes to reply, he might be most sympathetic about this and the government might even consider introducing an amendment at Committee Stage; that would stop me having to do so. I think it is very much a technicality. I do not think it will cost much money, because, after all, the Agricultural Research Council need not give money to fish farming if it does not want to and does not think it a worthy cause. It is a small matter, but I think an important one and one which might be much welcomed.
Having said all that. I should like again, with all other noble Lords, to give this Bill a very fair wind. I wish our fishermen, so glowingly described by the noble Lord, Lord Peart—who nearly had me singing, "Fishermen of England", as he was speaking—nothing but good luck, and I must say again how delighted I am to see fish farming recognised in a piece of legislation.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, I am sure that the Government must be very pleased indeed by the general welcome that has been given to the Bill; this follows a similar welcome given in another place, and indeed co-operative efforts to improve the Bill, although it is true to say that the Government had second thoughts on one decision that was made in the Committee there. There is no doubt at all of the value of the Bill, but let us please not overestimate it. The trouble at the moment about the fishing industry arises from the changes that have taken place within a relatively short period: the changes in relation to the deep sea fleet, by the dispute with Iceland and the fact that we did not come to any settlement satisfactory to us. I must say that although it was urged on me at that time—I was a fishery Minister at that time—that we should allow the EEC to come in and help us, I am afraid that they did not help us to a very great extent. That was the first thing.
Then there was the EEC itself. I have heard people talk today as though there were no common fisheries policy. I would remind them that we all thought there was no common fisheries policy, but on the very eve 143 of us putting our name to and joining the EEC in 1972, we discovered that there was a fisheries policy, to which we were committed. The only thing was that I think we retained our own rights in respect of conservation, and we were given a 10-year moratorium in respect of changes in fishery limits. Then, of course, there came the world-wide sudden realisation of the value of fish and the shortage of fish and the extension of boundaries all over. We of course found ourselves tied in relation to this; we were not able to conduct bipartisan negotiations with Iceland, with Norway and other places; it was now an EEC matter. This is why, using the power of that now, we have got some influence in relation to the Germans and Canada, because it is now an EEC matter.
All these changes affected people who saw their traditional way of life going. They had to look for other outlets. I think it was Lord Campbell of Croy who drew our attention to the fact that there has been this decline in the industry, this great reduction in the deep sea fleet. I think even in these last three years it has halved; there are only about 52 ships left and they are not all at sea. Some of the middle water men had to find new areas and they started encroaching on what were the preserves of other sections of the industry. So the fact of the matter is that the 70s have been years of change and decline and frustration. People have been saying for years, and I can remember even the right honourable gentlemen telling me at one time, that we needed to restructure the industry. We could not restructure the industry until we saw what the future fishing pattern was going to be, and that depended on a common fisheries policy that was not agreed, and we have not got it yet.
The whole of Part II of the Bill is a prelude—it is not here yet—to what the common fisheries policy will be, to what agreements we will make in relation to where we will fish and how much fish we will be able to take, and also in relation to the whole aspects of conservation. We do not know. We may be enthusiastic and welcome the Bill, but please do not mention singing "Fishermen of England" if you want to keep harmony in the House today. Remember, half the fish is now landed in Scotland. This was a point I wanted to make. Although we have an increased interest and an increased number of vessels in the nearer waters, the deep sea fleet has been decimated. They now only land, I think, about 9 per cent. of the whole catch of all the fish in Britain. I heard the noble Baroness talking quite rightly, about the domination of the industry by the deep sea fleet. Their domination, of course, has changed. They always were able to speak with a much more united voice for their section of the industry than any of the others, because, as she rightly said, there was that element, not just of regionalism but virtually parochialism. Part of that has been eroded by the French threat and the French aggression in pursuit of their particular policies. It may well be that we will get a much more united voice at this moment front the fishermen of the United Kingdom. But once we come to do the restructuring, once the Minister comes to deal with the whole question of who is on the authority and who is not, watch that unity disappear and the demands for parochial or regional representation 144 come again to the surface. But I will come to that later on.
There is no doubt at all about it that the 70s have been declining years for the fishing industry, changing years. I am afraid the 80s have started virtually as despairing years. I was reading something sent to me the other day from a fishing port that has suffered very severe blows indeed. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, will know it well—Buckie—where in the last 20 months they have lost five ships. Even in the last fortnight they have lost eight men in two ships. When one reads the names and sees how the families are all tied up, one appreciates the importance of this from a family point of view, from a community point of view, and one can see why there is that local parochialism and, indeed, pride in their part of the industry. It has been a matter of pride for the industry and it may well be that it robbed them of the unity of voice in respect of interests that have been threatened over much more recent years. I sincerely hope that that unity will be there.
However, what they said was the following:There is now more general awareness of the nature of the problems afflicting the industry; central have been the uncertainty over our arrival at a satisfactory CFP "—common fisheries policy. Let me at this point congratulate the Government on what they are doing. I was glad to see the Secretary of State for Agriculture backing up the sterling work that is being done by the Minister of State, whose father I am happy to see present. The noble Lord can tell him that I approve of all that he has been doing there. Mind you, he has something to live up to because he was the Minister in charge of fisheries in Scotland at the time when we originally went in and he knows all the feeling that was aroused in Scotland at that time. However, the Government are doing well there.
Secondly, the document mentions:massive imports of fish at ludicrously low prices".That point was touched on by the noble Baroness. It goes on to mention spiralling overheads for our own boats. It is not just a question of energy costs, because we must bear in mind the costs of everything else. With all the gear the cost of a new boat is frightening. That all has an effect throughout this varied industry. Headline goes on:Despite measures of Government aid, the crisis has had a snowball effect, with orders for new boats drying up and consequent fears for employment in fishing boat building and repair yards around the country".I think that it was my noble friend Lord Peart who mentioned the fact that this is not one industry, but many industries. For every one person involved in catching, there are six people whose livelihood is involved in repair yards, in supplying nets and engines and in processing, as well as the porters on the fishery harbours. Someone said to me the other day that it is an ironic fact that today Hull, which used to be the great centre of the deep sea industry and the port which was so concerned about the troubles over the Icelandic waters, is now dependent for work for its fish porters on Icelandic trawlers coming in with their fish. That is the nature of the change.
I sincerely hope that what I think is central to the Bill—that is, the provisions in relation to financial aid as well as what is proposed in respect of conserva- 145 tion on a wider sphere when we have power to deal with foreign boats as well as our own—will come from a satisfactory conclusion of the CFP. However, that does not entirely lie in our hands and it will not be done tomorrow. Please remember that, once we get the agreements in principle, we must then work out all the details. We all know that the restructuring has been required for about seven or eight years. It will be hard going. We shall hear phrases like "selling down the river" scrapping and "building". It will be hard for some people and hard for some ports.
That brings us to the importance of what we are now going to do in respect of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board. I think that I am the fourth fishery officer who has spoken today: we have heard from the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, my noble friend Lord Peart and myself. We have known the people who have served in these bodies and we have known them well. They have not been people directly involved in fishing. I remember that when I first became Secretary of State a distinguished ex-colonial civil servant, who was later a director of Fisons, was head of the Herring Industry Board. He was followed by a very distinguished Scottish trade unionist who was one of its most successful chairmen—namely, George Middleton. We have the work in the White Fish Authority of men like Charles Meek and the others who have been mentioned. Within their remit they have done a quite excellent job.
I may say to the noble Earl who spoke last that I have just been reading a report from the White Fish Authority in respect of the visit that it made to China at the request of our embassy in Peking. One of the matters to which it has been paying special attention is the very matter about which the noble Earl was speaking—namely, fish farming. We shall come to the amount of work that the White Fish Authority has done overseas during the Committee stage, because we know that the Government will support them in expenditure along these particular lines.
These were small bodies, but now we are getting one. It is a natural development. In fact the Fleck Committee suggested over 20 years ago that this should be the way. At present, with developments being sponsored by the two authorities, they are both in the same headquarters. They share staff and they have come together. I think that Governments have been hoping and hoping that there will be a common fisheries policy and that they could wrap everything up into one Bill at the right time. We have now decided to go ahead with it. These people are taking on the tasks that were respectively those of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board. That will be very important because when we come to what aid may be available for restructuring the industry, when we come to the question of licensing, I have not the slightest doubt that use will be made of the new authority and that it will act virtually as agent of the Government.
The question then arises: is it right that we should have a completely independent body—the eight and the 12—or should we have an authority like the White Fish Authority and Herring Industry Board which were completely independent? The Government have 146 tied themselves. The change was made in Committee in another place, and then the Government reversed that decision on Report in the Commons. They have come back to this authority of 12, eight of whom will be representative of the industry and four independent. I think that I am right in saying that the chairman and the vice-chairman must be two of the independent members. We have no information about whether they will be full-time or part-time, or how they will be paid or what they will be paid. Above all, we know very little about how they will be chosen.
This is an industry which is really six or seven industries, and yet we shall choose eight representatives. We know one thing. I think that it was the right honourable gentleman Mr. Enoch Powell who, in another place, as a result of an intervention which I think he made in Committee, got the assurance from the Minister that there will be one representative from Northern Ireland. So now we are left with seven. If the noble Baroness gets her way we shall be left with six, because she demands—and she demanded today—that there will be one from the South-West. I have been reading the reports of another place: Aberdeen wants its representative; the Highlands want their representative and the deep sea men want their representative.
There is not a split of the industry into deep sea, middle water and inshore—and inshore, of course, is now from a landing point of view, from a supply point of view, much more important. There is still a certain measure of voice domination from other parts. But when we take into account the spread and the parochial pride of and demands from the various ports—not just from areas but from actual ports—how are we to deal with the seven? There is not only the fishing industry from a catching point of view to be considered; there are the processors in which the Government have a great deal of money tied up, especially in Scotland with the support that has been given to new ventures in relation to fish processing. I remember the Minister of State himself presenting a new Bill, the Breasclete Harbour Bill, where a great deal of money was to be spent on building a new port in the West of the Islands. I shall not embarrass the noble Earl or expect any reply from him at the moment about the effect of, say, "Klondiking" on that. But this is where the importance lies in relation to these particular problems; we must take into account the interest of the catchers, the processors and the people who work in the harbours.
How will we get direct representation for them all in the seven representatives? I do not think that we will. Although they may all agree that they want direct representation, as soon as they discover that they are not getting direct representation, we shall receive complaints. I think that most Members who have been Ministers—certainly Scottish Ministers—have experienced this. I remember setting up the Highlands and Islands Development Board. We received demands that there must be a representative from Lewis, Shetland, Orkney, this place and that place. We would never have had the successful board that we eventually achieved by having independent people on it.
Decisions will have to be made by the Government, perhaps through their agents, the new Sea-Fish Industry 147 Authority. Let us not shorten that to sea fish authority and start calling it the SFA or we shall really get mixed up in Scotland, because those initials are still retained by the Scottish Football Association, in which I have a certain interest. Noble Lords must not try to sidetrack me on last Wednesday's game! When considering the decisions that will be taken, we must see whether or not all these people who want representation will be satisfied with what they will get. That is one of the difficulties with which we shall deal in Committee. However, I am not very happy about this question of representation.
Then there are the four independent members. From reading the Bill, we discover that as regards matters of finance and matters of levy, which will be of vital importance to the industry, the eight representatives of the fishing industry will not be consulted; those matters are to be left to the four independents. So that is one matter that we shall require to examine.
I am very glad that the Government have taken the opportunity to control, and it may well be to restrict, "Klondiking". I think that all the dangers are present, including the disadvantages of the harbours and the processors. We must bear in mind how much we have tied up in processing and the extent to which local employment is dependent on processing. Processors in the Scottish fishing industry are working at under 20 per cent. capacity; yet where I live I can see fish in the Bay of Ayr, on the West Coast of Scotland, but not a fish comes into the harbour. That suits some of the catchers; of course it does. But in the smaller villages the catchers' families are employed in other branches of the industry. From a long-term point of view we must tackle this problem, and tackle it firmly. As a result of action in another place, the Government took power to license the "Klondikers", but they have not laid down the circumstances under which they will use that power. That is the real biting power. In Canada they use the "Klondikers" when it suits them; when there is a surplus and their processing factories on shore are working at full capacity, they license the "Klondikers". We should do the same. From the point of view of a disciplined and prosperous industry, both offshore and onshore, this is something that we want to do.
I do not want to speak for too long, but I look forward to the Committee stage and I hope that it is conducted in a pleasant spirit. I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene, will forgive me if I do not go into the dire question of Crown Commissioners and what they are doing. I remember introducing a new Bill, a Crown Commissioners Bill, where we dealt with these particular points, so the noble Viscount might get some comfort there. However, I can assure him that many of the lairds of Scotland, who did very well out of the negligence of the Crown Commissioners in the past, by not staking their claim in respect of certain beaches and foreshores over a particular period, then discovered that they had passed, as a result of law, into the hands of the proprietors. I do not have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Viscount, but I wish him well in his battle for a monopoly of oysters beds and so on.
I think that the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, is right. There is confusion over 148 responsibility in respect of fish farming, between the Minister of Agriculture and the new authority, although there is no doubt that the existing White Fish Authority already has certain responsibilities in respect of fish farming for sea fish. It has the establishment at Hunterston for instance, and yet another place.
When we look at the whole Bill we see that some of it is natural development, and that we are only putting the stamp of statute on something that has already happened. In Part II we are anticipating and getting ready for what we all hope will be a satisfactory settlement in respect of the fishery limits, and, indeed, in respect of conservation. I think it was the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene, who spoke as to the adequacy or otherwise of the 40 inspectors, but from my reading of the Bill it will not only be the 40 who will be concerned to ensure that people comply with whatever new regulations are produced.
We started on this business of conservation long before the EEC or anyone who is now in the EEC. I think that they have much to learn from us. If, as has been said, we can ensure that conservation is carried out within our own waters, knowing the quality of the people who are presently doing it and, indeed, the co-operation that they receive from the British fishing fleets—for they are seized of the importance of this for the long term, as it affects their livelihood—then I would be satisfied. But, quite frankly, I have some of the suspicions of the local Scottish fishermen, that we are the ones who comply and the foreigners do not. Indeed, I would not put it quite so bluntly as the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene, and limit it to one section, because I have heard things said about the Dutch and the Germans as regards compliance.
Do not let us overestimate the value of the Bill. The Bill is necessary; the Bill is important. But if we want to wish well for the future of our industry we ought to wish well to those who are conducting our negotiations at present in the Common Market, and trust that they get a satisfactory solution to the problems. They know what is expected of them. I am hoping that they will not let the fishing industry down.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ The Earl of Mansfield
My Lords, I should like to thank noble Lords and the noble Baroness for the positive and constructive way in which they have taken part in this useful debate, and indeed to congratulate them on the points that have been made. I congratulate particularly those who were lucky enough to be here for my opening remarks. I do not say that in any sense of pique towards those who were not here, but if they had been they would have heard how I justified the Bill in the context of a common fisheries policy, as hopefully, in the words of my right honourable friend, it will become with the passing of spring. It is of course extremely important—and the noble Lord, Lord Ross, put this so well—that as the conditions have changed, and changed for the most part not altogether for the better so far as the fishing industry is concerned, then we must get our tack right so that we can continue to monitor both the fishing industry, and the conditions in which it fishes, and provide the best possible framework for the future.
A great many of the points put to me were matters which no doubt will be raised on Committee. Perhaps 149 May I reply to some of them, particularly the broader ones which really come into a Second Reading debate. The noble Lord, Lord Peart, asked about the financing of the SFIA—the new body—in the future. What I first have to tell him is that, of course, under the Bill the authority is given power to finance its activities basically in two ways. First, it can raise the levy on the industry. I shall come back to this a little later because my noble friend Lady Hornsby-Smith asked questions about the levy. Secondly, of course, the authority can borrow funds either from the private sector or indeed from the Government. It may use its borrowed funds, for example, to give loans to the fishing industry in a way similar to the WFA now. But I should tell the noble Lord, Lord Peart, that this is quite separate from the arrangements in Part II of the Bill which provide for financial aid from the Government for purposes of restructuring the industry. That is quite separate and apart from the ordinary grant and loan.
Then the noble Lord asked about the training of fishermen. The Bill gives power for the authority to undertake training. What its activities will be in that direction will be for the authority to decide having regard to the priorities which it lays down for the use of its resources. But it will have, as we have heard quite a lot this afternoon, a number of persons who will represent different viewpoints within the industry, and no doubt they will wish to consider carefully the use of the powers which they are going to be given under the Bill.
Then we had quite a lot of debate as to the composition of the new authority. My noble friend Lady Hornsby-Smith was adamant that it must include somebody from the South West. If I may quote a little from my own experience in Government, where we have a pre-industry meeting of all the fishing representatives from the United Kingdom before each fishery council I attend, I am bound to say that there is a remarkable unanimity of view among the fishermen's representatives from different parts of the United Kingdom. Although, obviously, they have their different viewpoints because of their very different methods of fishing and different priorities, nevertheless there is not this almost selfish divergence of view which the general public might be led to expect.
In making the appointments to the authority the fisheries Ministers will obviously be concerned to ensure that the members of the authority are representative at least of the main areas of the industry. We shall have to take account too—as the noble Lord, Lord Ross, said—of the different sectors of the industry; there are not only catchers, but also salesmen and processors, and sectors like that, to be taken into account. We want to provide an authority which will have the full support and indeed respect of the fishing industry. Unless we get that, it will not succeed in its task. But I have no doubt that this matter of composition is something to which we shall return in Committee.
My noble friend put the point about a levy on transhipment. I think she was basically concerned to know whether "Klondikers" either outside the 12-mile limit or outside the 50-mile limit would be caught by the transhipment levy. The answer to both her questions is, yes. All "Klondikers" within 200 miles will be caught, because that is our fishery 150 limit. From that she will see, even if she does not agree with it, that it is almost impossible in those circumstances to ascribe a levy to an individual port. It would be an extremely difficult process—indeed, I would go so far as to say it would be impossible—to lay down some kind of equitable way in which the transhipment levy might be applied to a port.
Yesterday my noble friend asked me about fuel costs. I rather brushed her aside, for which I apologise. One always feels that statements in your Lordships' House can take too long. We are conscious, the Government are very conscious, of the fact that the fishing industry is an intensive industry so far as the consumption of fuel is concerned. We are also conscious that, whatever the cost of fuel in other countries may be, that fuel costs represent a large proportion of the costs of a fishing boat putting to sea. It was partly in reflection of this appreciation of the industry's problems that we made available the sum of money that I announced in your Lordships' House yesterday—that is to say, £25 million—and we did take this matter of the cost of fuel into account both in determining the amount of money and how it was to be paid out. Although I know that some sections of the industry at any rate would have liked to have a fuel subsidy, having regard to various well laid down principles to which the Government have adhered during this most unsatisfactory turn of events, economically speaking, that we are going through, we think it was right in this instance to provide the aid that we did and not by means of a fuel subsidy.
Then my noble friend went on to criticise, if that is not too strong a word, the form of the levy which the SFIA might impose. She, having read the Bill, will appreciate that it can be either an ad valorem levy at a maximum rate of 1 per cent., or indeed it can be a levy on weight, as is maintained by the WFA at the moment. That would be on a per kilogram basis. If the authority in the future chooses to apply its levy on an ad valorem basis, it will be for the authority, bearing in mind that the majority of the authority will be representatives from the industry, to set an appropriate levy rate.
Although the noble Lord, Lord Ross, was right to say that the representative members would be excluded from the administration of financial aid schemes, he was not right to say that the representatives would be excluded when the levy was set. Therefore, they will have the opportunity to play their full part at that important juncture when the authority goes about its duties.
I was asked by a number of noble Lords about the control on fishing effort by other countries. Needless to say, we in Britain are always mindful of the fact that we obey all the rules and the foreigners do not ever obey any of them! The Government have given close attention to the need for effective controls. We have to ensure that conservation regulations are respected and once the common fisheries policy is settled and agreed, detailed procedures are being worked out which will regulate fishing activity. It is important to understand and appreciate, as one of my noble friends did not, that each member state will be responsible for enforcing the regulations in its own waters. That is to say, each member state will be responsible for enforcing Community regulations, so there will not 151 be some vague third force which will be responsible for imposing its authority so far as monitoring of the regulations is concerned.
The national legislation which we will need to enforce the law against vessels of all nations fishing within United Kingdom fishery limits has been the subject of much Government thought. That is reflected in Part III of the Bill and we think the powers we have taken in that part of the Bill should be added to our armoury in order to carry out this function in the future. Apart from our responsibilities, all member states must he seen to be enforcing the rules to the same high standards as we do, otherwise there would be allegations of unfairness, I have no doubt. Therefore, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture has obtained the agreement of the Community to the setting up of a monitoring force of inspectors, and they will have the duty of ensuring that member states are carrying out their enforcement responsibilities effectively, fairly and without discrimination between fishermen of different member states. The point has therefore been taken on board and considered very seriously.
I come to the problems of fish farming, on which my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard was the first to comment. Sea fish farming is covered by the new authority as part of its general responsibility for the sea fish industry. Freshwater fish farming poses different questions and it would appear logical that it should have rather different arrangements provided for it. The noble Lord need have no worries for the moment; my department, the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, will look after his fish farm and see he does not spread disease, and it will be responsible in fact for all disease questions of that nature on Scottish fish farms.
I was asked a number of questions which amount to this: Why should the capital grants scheme which at present applies to the agriculture industry, to farms, not be applied to fish farms? The answer is that it is by no means certain at present that a capital grants scheme which is appropriate for agriculture would necessarily be applicable or indeed appropriate to sea fish or any form of fish farming. As I said in my opening remarks, we shall consider the matter. The question of grants of course will be on a United Kingdom basis, but the whole question of fish farming will be considered by both departments because the law of real property is different in Scotland, as is planning law, and therefore it will be necessary to have two consultative documents and two different lines of negotiation and discussion with the industry, and in due course two consultative papers will be produced and published and we shall see how we go from there.
A matter which the noble Lord raised and which will be part of this consultation process is that of the Crown Estate Commissioners, and I wish to answer the point because there has been some quite widespread dismay caused by this new or burgeoning industry, fish farming, which comes up against the rights of the Crown Estate Commissioners. The commissioners, as I have said, have rights on the seabed and they are statutorily charged with seeking to obtain the best return available on the Crown Estate, and it is right that they have 152 regard to that duty when they licence the mooring of sea cages.
The difficulty is that there are public rights in the sea—that is, rights of navigation and fishing—and in Scotland we also have private rights to take salmon, and none of those rights, as the noble Lord, Lord Ross, hinted, should be lightly set aside. The fish farmers are of course criticial of the present arrangements because they feel that the first-come-first-served approach of the Crown Estate Commissioners is unhelpful to them and they feel that their lease, once they have got one, should override other rights in the area, which at present it does not, and so there is some controversy in this connection.
On the other hand, the salmon netsmen, who equally have their rights, and others, feel their interests are likely to be adversely affected by a fish farm, when it comes along, about which they have probably not been consulted. Thus, one gets some very different interests, each of whom have well-entrenched rights which they wish to preserve. Nevertheless, that is a matter to which we shall have to address ourselves and it will be part of the consultation process.
Fish disease is another matter of which we shall have to take account—that is, in relation to fish farms—because the present legislation is out of date. As I said, fish farming is an industry which is advancing and expanding very fast. We shall have to consider the question of effluent and no doubt that will be in the consultative document.
My noble friend Lord Swinton asked about the distinction between fish farming for human consumption and food production and other forms of fish farming. The reason for the distinction is that in its grant scheme the European Community rightly distinguishes between the production of fish to eat and the production of fish to throw into a pond and hoik out with a rod and line. It may well be that those who go to my noble friend's fish farm to buy fish do not make it altogether plain what they intend to do with the fish once they have purchased them. That is the reason for the distinction which has been drawn and the reason why the Bill has been drafted in its present form. We cannot therefore, in the context of EEC expenditure, as it were, impose our own thoughts about it as fisheries Ministers. In other words, we cannot, whatever we think, sanction public expenditure on fish farming for the restocking of lakes or sporting purposes. Nevertheless, I take my noble friend's point, which might be considered.
I have not answered every point that has been put to me, but I shall look at the Official Report with considerable interest. In regard to any point with which I have not dealt but with which I should deal before the Committee stage, I hope to write to the noble Lord concerned. As I said in my opening remarks, expect that Notes on Clauses will be available shortly, if not tomorrow, within a matter of days, as is my usual practice. I echo the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, in saying that I hope that we have an interesting and fruitful Committee stage before too long.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.